tv Hardball With Chris Matthews MSNBC March 29, 2011 2:00am-3:00am EDT
army, prevent a massacre, and establish a no-fly zone with our allies. >> well, this is a new obama doctrine, which is that you act on threats. remember, that's what george bush did. he said iraq had weapons of mass destruction. so here we are, $3 trillion later for the long term cost of the war, deaths of thousands of troops, deaths to millions of
iraqis, civilians died as a result of the conflict, and we've got to be careful about we take an operational and ethical responsibility for the final outcome here that wasn't ours two weeks ago. successful westward charge by opposition fighters of the last nine days. rebels want that victory. in a political victory for
anti-gadhafi forces, qatar formally recognized the interim council as libya's sole legitimate representatives of the libyan people. let's bring back in richard engle and i know you have been following all the developments. one of the thing that is the president said several times was that gadhafi must go. tkeabt potil do you see him leaving as a result of political pressure? >> reporter: i don't see him leaving as a result of any political pressure. ore people here inki gadhafi talked about even sending a committee of thousands of people here in order to open a negotiation with the opposition and they don't want any of the negotiations. they think they are in open war
and they want it to done. from what they heard tonight, they are convinced the war will continue. >> it's going too continue and they are counting obviously on the continuing support of the united states and continuing air strikes. without it, what do they have? >> reporter: they don't have very much. the will to fight and they have numbers, but they don't have the weaponry. even despite all of the punishing air strikes, gadhafi controls an army and still has a lot of money. he can hire a lot of mercenaries and if the western air strikes stopped, likely this movement would be extinguished. if the idea was to protect the people, then the war has to continue because if the war were to stop and the air strikes stopped, the people are exposed. to bring in all of this and to discuss some of the political aspects, we are joined by richard wolf. this was obviously a very important message for the white house. what was the white house trying to achieve and do you think they
did it? >> there were two key lines in the speech and they were both limited. this was a limited speech for a limited mission. the first key line was simply stating that the united states has done what it said it would do. that gets to the humanitarian mission that the president spelled out and the idea that benghazi was a looming disaster and they overted it. that's the one the president wants to stick to. the question everyone in washington is debate suggest what happens to ka dafy and what about regime change. do we go to tripoly even with air support? the answer clearly was the second key line which is to be blunt, whave been down that roadefore. the answer was clearly no. there was a strict definition to the speech. it was a real world explanation or exploration of the theme that
is the president set out in his speech. the concept of a just war is how the president spells it out. whether it works politically depends on the success. here's the way it was just and justified and that's a piece of american exceptionalism. >> now richard, do you think that the white house meant to go this far? i listen to the speech from here in benghazi and clearly the people here were touched by it because the president talked about not waiting for mass graves to be filled. these would have been the people of bengazhi that filled those mass graves the president went beyond talking about libya and justifying the action he talked about a new doctrine of preemptive war going to war when the president of the united states doesn't feel it is morally right not to go to war. do you think the white house had that intended message?
>> yes, i think he did. here is this responsibility to protect that is an international norm under the united nations. that's one of the reasons there was support for that. the key is the next phase of this. you touched on that briefly and talking to chris, who remembers the rebel forces? they are ill-organize and ill-equipped. it doesn't meet the definition of assistance or self defense by supplying weaponry. that is the test of this doctrine if that is what we saw moving forward. >> here in benghazi, it feels like the rebels have backer and are being remembered from the air by the united states. thank you very much and we now go back to chris. i think she has more perspective from congress. >> we do indeed. richard and richard, joining me from capitol hill is luke russert. key members said they want
answersful how long are we there and what's the cost and the end game? did they get their answers tonight? republicans almost to a person reiterated a lot of the questionyou just did. what is the end game in libya and how long will we be there. republicans saying that president obama did not do a good job addressing the concerns tonight. a spokesman for john boehner saying that the speech failed to provide much clarity and nine days into this interventions, the americans have no answers to the question what does success in libya look like? that message was echoed around the republican party that sets up a partisan division going forward. they did not close the door on a republican critics of the administration and they are handling the libyan policy. democrats for the most part were supportive.
nancy pelosi and somebody who did not endorse this off the bat said it was good because president obama spoke about what a humanitarian mission it was and it would save lives. that was a constant thing i heard. there was a moral imperative of being involved in libya. also it was interesting from the democratic perspective, almost every member who released a statement and whoa i spoke to said we want congress to continue to be involved. nancy pelosi said u.s. action will be strengthened by consultation with congress. last week a lot of them spoke under the democratic side were critical of president obama for not briefing congress in regards to what the mission was in libya. they feel on the democratic side more aware of what that is and want to be briefed regularly. secretary of state hillary clinton will be beyond with the foreign relations committee. they expect a lot of questions
to her, but in terms of setting a precedent for the democratic party to believe in, president obama did accomplish that goal. he did not satisfy republicans at all. one interesting caveat i will say, senator john mccain, the president's opponent actually said he enjoyed hearing president obama clearly state what the policy was in libya. he remained shall we say unaware of how gadhafi would be removeed fr per wldikmo iorti outh, t ppti o what the president's actions were there. john mccain maybe going back to the maverick style by being more supportive of president obama than his conference there. >> the whole question of what happens with kaahamanu gadhafi is a key one. what are we expect something. >> a tough grilling from the folks and the administration
sending it up to capitol hill. a lot of them will be asked point blank to the officials that are going to be sent here for the nsa and hillary clinton. how long are we going to be in libya and how much it will cost? what is success? will he be there months or years? what is the commitment? the one thing to expect, you hand this off to nato, but that's us. we are the strongest part of nato and we are nato. >> another key point. luke russert, thank you so much. >> the president also said we stopped gadhafi's deadly advance. where are we with action on the ground in libya? >> well, chris, you can can probably hear behind me the call to prayer. it's just after 5:00 in the morning. that's going on in benghazi. how much changed in a few weeks. the call to prayer is now the
only time you can hear a city speak in the muslim world when people come out and call the faithful to attend the mosque. i was listening to this weeks ago in this city as gadhafi's forces were on their way heading here and looking for revenge. you can almost hear the desperation in the city. now there is a sense of relief. if for the last 48 hours the rebels have been able to push back the troops, they have been able to regain the territory they lost, but today when they got to the out skirts, the rebel offensive ground to a halt. after advancing almost unchecked for two days, rebels areow having tfight for territory. rels fid rocks and ka fys ki ata he. iss s mewn and gateway to tripoly.
they mostlrelied on western air strikes the rebels lightning advance was more of a drive through than a conquest. some took off uniforms. others left hi half-te mes. alstitutestae,he relsdvcerobeha. sirte, covering 350 miles. now that the rebels are having to fight, their supply line on is thin. there is little fuel and the rebels fill up the four heading to the front. the rebels's plan is to capture sirte and clearing the way. link up with the opposition and then make a final push to
tripoli. as reporters saw firsthand t remains a battle ground for now with gadhafi forces fighting rebels to withdraw. back in benghazi, the unofficial the opposition needs air strikes to continue for at least a few weeks. >> we need him to continue what they have started. results are beginning to bear fruits and seems that the time is getting shorter and shorter. >> rebels warn if international military support stops or slows down, their games to be erased. in benghazi, posters of those missing in this war are reminders to the rebels of what's at stake if they lose. sirte could end up becoming one of the most decisive battles of the entire conflict.
if sirte falls, the rebels will have tripoli in their cross hairs. if surt stays and the rebels don't succeed, this could be a drawn out stalemate. >> up next, the president and congress at odds over military action in libya. >> after consulting the bipartisan leadership of congress, i authorized military action to stop the killing. >> rob andrews serves on the armed serfs committee. we will have his reaction when he joins us live coming up.
if president obama consulted kk congress, we could have debated before involving ourselves in yet another middle eastern conflict. while the president is our commander of armed fores, she not a king he may involve the forces in military conflict only when authorized by congress or in response to imminent threat. neither was the case here.
>> congress and america was watching tonight and president obama made a humanitarian case for intervening in libya. >> so nine days ago after consulting the bipartisan leadership of congress, i authorize military action to stop the killing and enforce un resolution 1973. >> he spent less time addressing criticism that he didn't sufficiently consult with congress before taking military action. >> his latest decision was taken without adequate consultation or sufficient explanation to the american people. >> democratic congressman released a statement saying he believes the obama administration is getting better at communicating after a shaky start. here's a quote. building on this speech, the administration will send a number of key officials to condition to communicate what the goal is in libya. while initially i had concerned with the level of communication, congress and the american people, i applaud the
administration for recent efforts the president and his leadership team stated to the american team and congress what the goal is in libya. this must continue. so did president obama make the case for the u.s. moving forward? joining me now, rob andrews of new jersey and the armed services committee. thanks for being with us. >> you made it clear you were unhappy with the un security council and not congress. did the president make his case? >> he made a compelling case for the mission, but should have made that case prior to embark embarking on that commission. how we make decisions matters because it sets precedent for the future. if there was time to consult with the un security council, there was time to consult with the congress we have to go forward from here, but with the
understanding that that unilateral intervention shouldn't happen absent of an emergency in the future. >> was it clear to you what the end goal was? >> it is for gadhafi to no longer run libya. the president laid out a strategy that said we will use military force to facilitate circumstances where the rebels themselves can achieve that goal. i hope he is right. >> do you believe he is right. every indication is without the air strikes, they have virtually no power to move forward. the air strikes have been the sole reason they have been able to advance to the west. >> i am skeptical that the rebels will be able to achieve success with western airower. i hope that i'm wrong. i don't think that military judgment said they will succeed on that basis. one thing i tell you, i don't equate success of the rebels with success of the united states.
i'm not sure who these people are and i n't think we can assume they will necessarily be friendly to a democratic and humanitarian mission in the future. >> but you are not making the case that that's not whose side weer. >> we are clearly on that side and they are better than gadhafi at this point. there was a long history and we backed saddam hussein against the iranians and the 10-year war a few decades ago. that doesn't look good. we will be careful before we start characterizing our short-term allies with long-term virtues >> we will be watching closely as they talk more about this this week. thank you so much for being with us. >> the president will have to press against the agenda among many members of congress as well as armed forces. >> the military is one i wanted to address.
a massacre would have driven refugees across libya's borders. >> is libya in our vital interest as a country? >> i don't think it's vital for the united states, but we clearly have interest there and it's a part of the region which is a vital interest for the united states. joining me now is retired general james marx who served as a senior intelligence analyst. i want to ask with a specific question the pentagon said today in a cleaving briefing that ac 130 and these are both aircraft used to defeat tanks in fighting close quarters. they are both in operation here in libya. the use of this sophisticated
high powered weaponry, does it tell anything? what does that tell you about the mission and what do you think the mission is in libya? >> to answer your question, we have seen that all along. they clearly picked sides and they are here to support the rebel forces. try try to regain the momentum. they have nothing other than a capability provided by nato to help them achieve this moment. as we learned more about the rebels, they really are a great group of patriots, but they don't have the professionalism and the leaders at the senior level and more importantly, they don't have the non-commissioned officers. they have a rag tag band of patriots that are trying to retake the country.
this is a war that the coalition has taken on against the gadhafi regime. could you tell the viewers about what this aircraft does? i don't think most people have a sense of how deeply involved they are. >> it's a very precise weapons system that facilitates air to ground combat. the ac 130 aircraft, the aircraft, those are used in close combat -- what's called close air support missions. you have an air ground liaison capability usually and i'm not suggesting they are in the rebel formations right now. we could direct the missions so that the aircraft could destroy
the very pinpoint targets that are mobile. it allows you to be precise. you go after those things in populated areas as necessary. generally there people on the ground in urban areas. the capabilities of the ac 130 is to target a sniper on the roof. does this imply that we are going to be going into a phase of urban conflict and the u.s. is preparing nar? >> i'm not certain. all i heard is there is no u.s. ground forces inserted. that doesn't mean there won't be other from another nation. it's important to realize the nature of what gadhafi is doing
is he tuck his tanks in with the population centers and in order to go after those, he puts his population at risk. this is the type of guy that we are trying to remove. what is really important for us to understand is we have a no-fly zone and an air to ground attack mission the coalition does. what we have now is a commander in chief is we need to remove gadhafi. >> as we saw in iraq for many years before the latest intervention, a no-fly zen in the north and the south didn't remove saddam hussein. thank you very much, general marx. going back to chris in new york. >> i'm curious because you were talking about the experience, but if you look at un security council, it said clearly we are
supposed to be defending civilians. it does not call for specifically supporting the rebels and since gadhafi's forces seem to have support in surt and pose no threat to civilian, technically under the resolution, what can the u.s. and nato do in terms of supporting the rebels in surt? >> you are hitting on a thorny issue. there many people in surt who do not want to be liberated they are happy with gadhafi. gadhafi is from their tribe. how do you pick a side in a civil war? that is the sirte example which is probably one of the most ict ndhes are going to encounter again in tripoli when they meet real supporters.
>> change will come differently to different countries. there places like egypt where this change will inspire us and raise our hopes. then there will be places like iran where change is fiercely suppressed. the dark forces of civil conflict and sectarian war will have to be overted and difficult political and economic concernsville to be addressed. >> welcome back. i'm richard enclosurele from benghazi, libya. a few weeks ago i was watching the regime change and now we are watching a civil conflict in libya. what will happen and where will the change go from here?
chris has the latest in new york. >> we have a lot of developments out of that region. anti-government unrest continuing across the mideast. in yemen, for example. at least 100 civilians looting an abandoned weapons factually are dead after a series of explosions there the cause is unclear. in jordan, the prime minister announced citizens have a right to free speech and the government will allocate certain places. friday. they are call for example the prime minister to step down. in syria, government forces fired live am decision in tear gas to disburse protesters there. the protesters demanded the president increase freedoms and repeal emergency law that allows security forces to arbitrarily arrest citizens. he is expected to repeal it and other restrictions as early as tuesday to appease the
anti-government protesters. i visiting scholar for the carnegie endowment for international peace and contributor to the magazine and a senior official in the clinton administration. good to see you. >> nice to see you too. >> you argued that the president had to put this operation in the context of the broader situation in the mideast. did he pull it off? >> i don't think he did. he hengzed it at the end of the speech and talked about what was happening, but he didn't answer the question, what was the united states going to do about it. the speech was why libya? it left hanging in the air, the question what about syria and yemen and what about bahrain and iran perhaps. i think these are really the issues of historical moment. how the united states manages not just one crisis, but a series of 10 crisis that connect
the way the world works >> now, broadening this topic a little bit, i have watched several these popular revolts here in libya and everyone has been talking about them in such glowing positive terms. i wanted to ask you, is there a downside. for the last several decades, people in this region have been undereducated and fed experience theory. as people get more power, the experience theorys and a lot of the rage will simply come to the forefront. >> there a lot of forces competing to take advantage of the ferment in the region. the united states in the west has a group of people we support. iran has a group of people they support. al qaeda had groups they support and local cases, there is different political factions and
so there is a competition going on under the surface. i think one of the risks that we run is we are not exactly sure who we are advocates or pushing for in the case of libya, you ha lgeros p a qaa fdantis trisgrpsndheimar situation could exist in egypt or other cases here. i don't think we want to view this as a crisis of a week or two. this is a process that will take years and years and a lot of tending and carefully observing who is where and how do we support the ones that are closest to our views >> as that process goes forward and questions are raised about even if leaders go, who replaces them? in the midst of that, how concerned are you that that becomes terror or al qaeda's greatest recruiting tool? >> i'm concerned by it.
the former national security adviser and i were talking about this the other day. he said the election he worries about is not the first one, it's the second. you get people elected and they have to govern and deliver. if they don't and the frustration build it is up within the people, you get an opportunity for other groups to step in. we have an economic crisis and jobs and student. if we don't provide ourselves to this under 30 majority, we are going to have tension that is going to continue and create openings and not just for terrorists, but opponents of all different sorts. >> it's good to see you. thanks so much for coming on. >> my pleasure. the american people satisfied with the president's reasons behind military actions or is there a sense of battle fatigue? the president's greatest challenge, straight ahead.
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separately with the corpse of an afghan they allegedly murdered, january 15th, 2010 in a staged combat scenario. the pentagon issued a statement saying "the gettos published by rolling stone are disturbing and in striking contrast to the standards and values of the united states army. like those published, the army apologized for the distress the latest photos caused. accountability is the army's paramount concern in the alleged crimes and the army will pursue the troop no matter where it leads. no matter how unpleasant it may be and how long it takes. five soldiers in the platoon were charged with killing three afghans and one of them was sentenced to 24 years in prison under a plea deal that requires them to testify against his codefendants. tonight president obama made an emotional appeal to americans to
support democracy and freedom in the mideast. >> born as we are, out of a revolution by those who longed to be free, we welcome the fact that history is on the move. in the mideast and north africa. young people are leading the way. wherever people long to be free, they will find a friend in the united states. ultimately it is that faith those ideals that are the true measure of american leadership. >> how will americans respond to that argument? before the speech, this is what a poll showed. 47% of people believe president obama made the right decision by intervening in libya. 36% said it was wrong. 17% weren't sure. joining me now, msnbc political analyst, washington libya where
it's almost dawn. i don't know if you 4 a chance to what david roth said. he was talking about the challenge going forward. not just obviously in libya, but all across the mideast and all these young people who need jobs and opportunities. he's making that case to the american people who feel that they and their under 30s need jobs and opportunity. do you think he made that argument particularly in the context of where we are domestically? >> i think the president made a strong case. i think it has been a strong case from the beginning, but not always effectively conveyed in the rush of events and with a lot of unknown questions and criticism from the left and the right about this particular
decision to act in libya. i think the president laid out what he won't call the obama doctrine, but i will call it that, we do what we can when we can after we calculate the cost and benefits in a sober way. this is limited intervention he stressed that point again and again. it's not the u.s. going in on its own and dictating the terms. he drew the contrast for the iraq invasion several times in the speech. in this instance he is talking about being primarily motivated first and foremost by preventing a humanitarian crisis and figuring out where to go from there. earlier today, i was at the white house and i asked jake about the media story that there is confusion about the president's policies. he said there may be some, but there two levels to this. one is the level of intervention which is to stop anything awful from happening in ben gaz ghazibenghazi, but the other is the overall policy which is to put pressure on ka daf to force
him out. that's not the goal of the military policy. there is a lot to work through here, but the president laid it out in simple and easy to understand terms tonight. >> david, if i can pick up withe u.s.'s enemy number one. he was accused of terrorism and had hit squads and the cia trained members of the libyan opposition to foment up rising and the libyan-trained cia are back now in benghazi. i have seen them. the question i have, is this conflict is really about a moral obligation or is it settling old scores?
>> i think for obama it's not about settling old scores. let me thank you for your great reporting and soernlguous reporting. i think when you are dealing with that part of the world or any time there is an armed conflict and two sides, on this side you find lots of problems i think people with sketchy pasts whose interests and opposite are detrimental to the united states. i think from talking to people at the white house, the president came to the conclusion that the uncertainty that exists now easier to live with and that would have existed if gadhafi went into benghazi and sorted people and remained in the stronger position throughout the country. these are very hard things to know as maybe donald rumsfeld has knowns and unknowns. they have to be sorted out in the days and weeks ahead. talk of knowing the end game here is almost premature. the president went into this realizing that the end game is
different. as opposed to the desired outcome is known with libya without gadhafi on a path to happen and hopefully towards something resembling democracy. >> what happens in the united states if this conflict as all conflicts do drags on. it goes on not according to planned. if it lasts not just weeks and week, but months and months. what happens to the american will power to stay in this war? >> i think afghanistan has shown -- i don't say this happily, but conflicts drag on for months and years and not fully engage the american public. there hasn't been much debate in the bush years and the obama years. i think what the president says turns out to be true our military involvement remains limited and there no boots on
the ground and we don't take casualties. it's nato and france moving forward in terms of military engagements. there is not a big cost for the president here. then people can judge. they often said judge on the results and a few weeks or months's time if we are lucky. we will see which direction this is going. we can assess whether he made the right call or not. we don't think there will be demonstrations and if the tea party people will be that upset about it. it could be that this becomes more -- i don't mean to be dismissive about this, but background noise to the ongoing political battle wees have in the country already >> thank you for station up late with us. back to you. >> richard will be coming back and we will have final thoughts from libya and talk about what's next when the mideast in crisis
>> per we are back live in new york from and libya and let me give you a sense of what's happening in the week ahead as we listened to president barack obama make his case. they come into the house and the congress will be getting briefings and there is a series of oversight hearings. secretary clinton heads to london where he is said to be meeting with opposition and representatives from more than 30 countries. you heard this from the president tonight. officially the united states hands over control of this operation to nato and one question tonight is richard.
what exactly in practical terms does that mean? >> does that mean that the u.s. military will try to do as many as possible until wednesday? what's happening is important. the rebel movement and the opposition movement doesn't have a clear political leadership. what is more important right now is what is happening on the out skirts of sirte. if sirte falls, the sequence of events could change dramatical y >> i'm chris jansing in new york and since there so many unanswered questions, i will be here tomorrow night at 10:00 p.m. eastern. another edition of rage and lef losing, the mideast in crisis. good night.